With six out of eleven posts in the Central Information Commission including that of the chief, remaining vacant, transparency activists have approached the Supreme Court seeking an urgent hearing alleging that the Central government has defied the apex court's directions on appointments in the body.
Seeking urgent hearing in the ongoing case on appointments in transparency bodies, the petition by activists Anjali Bhardwaj and others said that the Supreme Court had on December 16, 2019, ordered that four vacant posts should be filed within three months of issuance of the order.
However, the government filled the vacancy of Chief Information Commissioner and one Information Commission on March 6 this year, which the activists said that it was in violation of the court orders.
"The order of December 16, 2019, has not been complied with and the number of vacancies at the CIC has now increased to six and even the post of the Chief Information Commissioner has been vacant (once again) since August 27, 2020, frustrating the order of this court as well as citizens fundamental right to information," the petition said.
According to the petition, the Supreme Court had in February 2019 issued directions to the Centre and states to fill vacancies across Central and State Information Commissions in a transparent and timely manner. However, in November last year, the petitioners once again approached the court informing that the governments had failed to comply with the directions and that four posts of Information Commissioners in CIC were vacant.
The next month, the Department of Personnel and Training issued "fresh advertisements for four Information Commissioners' posts though it had already been advertised in January 2019.
On December 16 last year, the Supreme Court once again asked the Centre to fill the vacancies within three months. Meanwhile, the incumbent Chief Information Commissioner retired.
On March 6 this year, the Centre appointed a new CIC Bimal Jhulka, who was already an Information Commissioner, and a new Information Commissioner. "The number of vacancies in the CIC remained at 4t as one of the commissioners was appointed as Chief" despite the court asking the Centre to fill all four vacancies, the petition said.
The petition also found fault with an affidavit the Centre filed with the Supreme Court in April this year claiming that it has adhered to the orders and said that as of April 24, the number of vacancies in the CIC remained at four.
In July, the DoPT again issued a fresh advertisement for the appointment of up to six Information Commissioners while another advertisement was issued inviting applications for the post of Chief Information Commissioner as Jhulka was retiring on August 26.
"With the retirement of the Chief on August 26 and another commissioner demitting office at the end of September, currently 6 posts, including that of the Chief are lying vacant and the pendency of appeals/complaints has risen to over 36,600," the petition said.
The petition claimed that the Centre appeared to be resorting to issuing fresh advertisements instead of filling all the advertised vacant posts in a bid to cause undue delay in the appointments thereby frustrating peoples' right to information.